INTERVIEW: ‘OUTPOST: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ’ STAR BRYAN LARKIN
Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz, the third film in the action horror series, takes the franchise back to its roots with a Russian platoon discovering the origins of the Nazi’s Zombie experiments. Scottish actor Bryan Larkin leads the cast as hard as nails Russian soldier Dolokhov. We spoke to him at the 2013 Edinburgh International Film Festival where the film was given its .
Had you heard of the franchise before you got the script?
Yeah, it’s been kind of hard to avoid actually. Kieran [Parker – director] and Arabella [Page Croft – producer] have were making the first Outpost when I was making my first feature – Running in Traffic which was at Edinburgh in 2009. I’d heard about what they’d gone through to try and get the film made. I believe they remortgaged their house. So that made the indie film Scottish circuit headlines. It was an interesting way that they went about it. So that was how I heard about the Outpost films and got to meet Kieran and Arabella through that.
Obviously the films have already been a success but did you have any apprehensions coming into an already established franchise?
I was just happy to be part of the project to be honest. I think it will survive because what’s really interesting is what they’ve done with the franchise this time is they’ve made a cross genre thing where it’s a war film with monsters in it.
The first film came out of nowhere and was spooks and scares; the second one Black Sun was more of an action adventure; this is rooted in the Second World War. So I think war film fans as much as zombie film fans will find that there’s appeal in that and I think it’s definitely the most action packed yet as well.
Tell us about your character Dolokhov and his journey.
Dolokhov is the leader of a small Russian unit called the Spetsnaz. The Spetsnaz were basically brought in as killing machines to destroy enemy communications, gather intelligence and cause as much bloodshed as possible. We join Dolokhov and his unit on the Eastern front in March 1945 in closing stages of the Second World War where they’re destroying enemy communications and they ambush a Nazi convoy and they find this paraphernalia and this serum which takes us into what the Nazis are all about. Then they get ambushed and taken into the Outpost where Strasser and the Nazis and planning on experimenting on the Russians because they’re trying to create this unstoppable soldier. And Dolokhov basically has to fight for his life because they see him as their prize possession, that he’s going to be the most unstoppable soldier. Yeah, he’s badass – he’s a killing machine with a very dry sense of humour.
The character has a huge physical presence. What kind of work did you have to do to get yourself into that shape?
Fortunately I was brought in at an early stage, maybe 4 months before filming. I auditioned for Black Sun and I didn’t get it but Kieran brought me in and said ‘I’d like you to maybe think about doing this’. Immediately when I read the script I thought holy hell, this guy is unstoppable so I immediately started working out. I gained 40 lbs in four months. I did a lot of weight training. I was on a high protein high carb diet, bike riding every morning, two chicken breasts for breakfast, banana, work out, pasta – all the good stuff and I put on a lot of weight. We did a lot of fight training so it was four months of hard work.
There are a lot of action set pieces. Did you do any of your own stunts?
All of it was done by me. On a film like this, you’re an actor and we all want to work in the action genre. There’s not a lot of action films set in Scotland so when you get the opportunity to play the lead role in a successful franchise, you grab it with both hands and you do everything. At the end of the first week of filming I did get a bit of an injury. I hyperextended my knee on a stunt, popped my shoulder and dislocated a finger and quickly popped it back in. It was touch and go at the end of the first week in Yorkshire in the forest for the opening of the film, whether I was going to be able to continue. So a good friend of mine Jamie Campbell, we’re quite similar in appearance, who plays one of the other guards, we approached him and asked him if he’d do some of the running for me. So he did some of the running but other than that, all of the fights, all the ducking and diving was all me. The whole thing I said to Kieran was “If I can still stand, I’m finishing the film, regardless of a little knee injury.”
Do you have feel like brothers in arms working on a low budget movie with this international cast?
It was a great experience working with the guys. Kate Plantin the casting director brought in Iván Kamarás from Hungary and Velibor Topic who’s from Bosnia. I was the Scottish guy in there who had to sound more Russian than them. I just had to impersonate their voices. They’re really lovely guys and James Thompson, the mixed martial fighter is the nicest funniest guy with a deadpan sense of humour. We’re all really good friends. Normally there can be one that’s a bit of an idiot but we were really lucky on this.
The Outpost franchise is a big success in terms of Scottish cinema but as both an actor and director, what do you think of the current state of Scottish cinema?
This year at the film festival we have a romantic comedy in Not Another Happy Ending; we have Outpost which is an action/war/zombie film. We also have Paul Wright’s film [For Those In Peril] which is a drama. So I think it seems to show signs of improving. I think there could always be more funds for filmmakers because you can do so much, and Outpost proves it, for very little. It would be nice to see a lot more money spent on developing talent and scripts and up and coming filmmakers. If we were successful in building a film studio here, I think that would improve things. I think it’s very difficult to make a film here financially. I think you have to prove yourself on some kind of scale before someone will invest in you and I understand that as well. But it would be nice have more small budgets for filmmakers. I think with the talent we have here particularly in actors and directors we do have the potential.
This Outpost film was the directorial debut of Kieran Parker. As an experienced director yourself, did you have any tips?
Kieran knows this genre very well. He’s a big action horror fan. He knows movies inside out. He was story writer on all the Outpost films. He’s a very energetic director. He directs action very simply; there’s no messing around. Tips for Kieran? I don’t have any tips for Kieran. He’s a great guy and a good director and I was very lucky that he gave me the opportunity.
Having directed yourself, does that give you a different perspective on the role of the director?
I think it depends on the genre. For an action genre like this you’re going to direct actors differently than if it was a drama – you don’t have all the subtext and all the emotion and all that stuff. In Genre films there’s really only five faces you can pull: you’re scared; you’re angry; you’re upset. In some ways it was the easiest job I’ve ever had, the most enjoyable job, because having directed myself, I know what responsibility a director has. He has to have his eyes and ears everything. It was nice just to be in an action film where you don’t have to think for everybody else.
Tell me a bit about the Outpost set where the bulk of the action takes place.
James Lapsley, the production designer, designed that in 2007 when they shot the first one. They remodel it a little bit for all the Outpost films. It’s a real set, on the stage in Stepps in Glasgow in a secret location. It’s been there for four years. We were there for four weeks on that set and at the end of the four weeks I still didn’t know where I was going because it’s so big and you come in one door and it’s completely different from the other door. You can easily get lost on that set but it’s fabulous and it looks great on camera. There’s a smell about it; it almost smells like you’d expect the outpost to smell.
There are plenty of prosthetics and special effects on display in this film. Do these help your performance?
Nimba Creations who do all the masks, they’ve been working on all the films. It can’t help but help your performance. The energy on that set every day seemed so authentic and Kieran was very insistent there were going to be little visual effects in terms of post-production so everything you see or ninety nine percent of it is as it is, and that can only help the film. You know when you see a CG monster. It helps the authenticity, it helps the performance and it only really helps the film.
I think a lot of people would probably enjoy running around shooting at Nazi zombies. Was it something you enjoyed?
It’s each job at a time to be honest with you. I’ve done a couple of action films before – I did Battleground. There is a bit of a thrill firing a gun but it’s no different than a drama or anything else. Once you get over that excitement of the loud explosions and that sort of thing you just do your job and you just do what’s expected of you and you try to do your best.
We’re interviewing you here at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Have you had the chance to sit and watch the film with an audience?
We had the premiere last night in here[The Film House]. It was the first time I’d actually seen the film. I think the response was really good. It was really busy and they got what they expected. I had some friends and family there last night and it was good to have that comfort. This has been going a while; about a year and a half since I first started filming and it was just good to share it with people. As Kieran says, there’s nothing more important than giving the film back to the people who helped make it at premieres. It makes it all worthwhile.
Do you feel a responsibility as a Scottish artist to work in Scotland as much as you can and make films here?
Yeah, I would like to work more here but really there aren’t as many opportunities as there are elsewhere. If I get the opportunity to work here or work in Canada or whatever it depends on the project and depends on the script and depends on the challenge really and there are really not as many opportunities here as we would like. I direct myself, I’ve directed shorts and had films at Sundance and Toronto and I think it’s your responsibility as an artist to not just wait on the phone to ring because a lot people just wait for that, particularly actors. I think you have to be proactive and go out there because that’s where I’ve got most of my work is by making my own work.
In terms of film, is that an exclusively Scottish problem or does it apply to the UK as a whole?
You can shoot a film on your mobile phone now. We’re not lacking talent. We’re not lacking the desire and capabilities and all the things it takes to make a film. The problem is how do you get a film to audiences when you have massive amounts of social media? You can get lost. How do you get your film noticed? You could be sitting with a film and a script and good actors but how do you get that film to audiences? I do think that more focus should be spent on up and coming and emerging filmmakers finding their audiences with video on demand and film festivals.
You mentioned VOD there and while that’s a great platform most want their films seen on the big screen. Is cinema still as important is it was?
I think the industry has changed so much over the last five years – people are watching movies on their phones; they’re watching movies on their laptops; they’re downloading movies and all that kind of thing and there is nothing beats the cinema experience. I think there should be more cinemas built and it should be a shared viewing experience. There will be audiences who download movies illegally. There will always be people who watch movies legally online. There will be people who buy DVDs. But you’ll also get people who will go out to the cinema to see the movies. There’s big movies that still don’t get into the cinema. I believe that Lincoln by Spielberg was almost a non-theatrical release. What chance is there for the rest of us if Daniel Day Lewis doesn’t make the cinema?
What other projects have you got coming up?
I have just finished writing my second feature called The Virtual Network which is a cross between The Matrix and 28 Weeks Later and it’s a very exciting post-apocalyptic story. I’m slated to direct that with Eddie Dick producing, although there are some acting roles coming up as well. There may be a project with Naysun [Alae-Carew] who was the editor of Outpost. I don’t know what I’m going to do, there’s a few things. There is also a film in Canada that I’ve been offered. Watch this space. I want to do something different next time.
Thank you very much Bryan Larkin
Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz is out now on DVD